Friday, June 3, 2016

David Arrives back in the U.S.


(This one is written by Mom...) We got to go to the airport on Friday. Amazingly, Anziano David Whitesell has completed his mission to Italy! His plane arrived mid-day, but of course he stood in lines to take his baggage through customs and immigration, etc., so he walked out of the doors of International Arrivals around 3 p.m.

We wanted someone besides his immediate family, to be there to take some video and still shots for us upon his arrival. We asked amongst his high school friends, who were home from college, if anyone had a couple of hours Friday afternoon to come to the airport with us. Nick and Nikhil stepped up and came to the airport with us to meet him. So glad the stars aligned and they could come!
Nick (L) and Nikhil

Dunkin Donuts of course!

It was such an overwhelming time for him, and for us! People ask him, "How was your mission?" How in the world can you pack TWO WHOLE YEARS of growth and experiences into a few sentences...?

We went right from the airport to the home of one of our church leaders in the 'stake' -- that is the group of congregations in the Boston area. He had some very insightful things to say about missions, and about returning missionaries.

He mentioned how each mission is so different and individual for each missionary. He reminded us that the Lord knows each one of us personally. David's mission helped him grow in ways that the Lord knows will help him now and in the future. Like filling a "bucket" of experiences and knowledge for yourself, that you can retrieve and remember later. Those things can help YOU get through future challenges, and maybe they can help you help someone ELSE get through theirs, too. Maybe the experiences David had will give him the wisdom to help someone else down the line, when they come to a challenge or obstacle.

I apply that to those of us who did NOT serve a 2-year mission, too. I think God knows what each of us needs, and just what and who we need around us to help us get through our adversity. He also knows how we can help somebody ELSE get through those things. We each have a different "bucket" of life experiences to draw from when we need it.

This church leader then "released" David from his service in the Italy Milan Mission. It wasn't a blessing or a prayer or anything. He said David would not be serving in that mission anymore. BUT, he was not being released from the TYPE of work he has been doing: serving people and being a representative of Christ. Those are life-long things.

It was a very emotional day for all, and David ended up being awake for about 24 hours straight.

We came back to the house and he unpacked his suitcase, showing us some of the cool things he brought back from Italy.

Lots of ties! He brought back ties for some of his friends. There was a merchant in Florence who really liked the missionaries, so he always gave them a great deal on their ties.

We're happy, happy, happy to have David home.

We love you David!!!!!!!! :) :) :)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Note from Nicotra's Family

Hello (Anziano Whitesell's) Family!

We had a great time with your son eating fried pizza (a Napolis recipe). We really enjoy him and inviting him to our house.

He is a great missionary and a great boy, we are happy to have met him.

Nicotra's Family

P.S. We know the joy to meet again our son back from mission and are happy for you

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Last Post from Italy!

Hi, I really don't know what to write! Last THIS as a missionary, last THAT in Italy, last time in church, last time with the Nicotra and Pogetti families (really cool members).

We went to Lecco to hike. I shared the "Sons of Mosiah reunite with Alma" scripture from Alma 17 with some people, as a reminder to stay strong.

Although 2 Timothy 4:7 would also be applicable: I have fought a good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.

Then the one I've been sharing as a favorite scripture is 3 Nephi 11:11 -- "I am the light and the life of the world."

It's really surreal, I still feel like I'm just going to another area, like it's normal transfers. It's like when Sirius Black dies by going through the doorway...nobody quite knows what's on the other side, but now I'm standing there about to pass through. Good things I'm sure.

I'll send the best pictures I've got, gathered through my iPad. You may have some of them, and some will be new.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Apartments, Puppies and Hope

Ciao, All!

We took a hike to the Santuario Della Madonna del Bosco. It was a nice walk, a pretty church, and an excellent view. We also stopped by a lake while we were there. It was very peaceful.

FAITH AND HOPE. I forgot to mention that I gave a talk two weeks ago. It was about hope, which I compared to an action word, like faith. I thought about the topic, wrote three scriptures down, and walked to the pulpit armed with just the Book of Mormon and the ideas I had had. It was a pretty good talk, not spectacular, but pretty good.

I compared Christlike hope to the Christmas experiences of two girls. Both of them want a puppy, but the first girl never cleans her room, often breaks her toys, doesn't help with household chores, and doesn't come inside on time. The second girl, however, cleans her room, washes the dishes, takes care of her things, and generally shows responsibility. Both girls hope for a puppy. But realistically, who is going to get it? Likewise, all of us hope for a bright future and a resurrection on the right hand of God. But who is realistically going to get it? The man who twiddles his thumbs and prays while watching the grass grow, or the man who helps his neighbor move, sets a positive example for his children, and offers a shoulder on which to cry for a friend coping with loss?

ANSWERING MOM'S QUESTIONS. My favorite missionary apartment was the Firenze apartment, with the penthouse balcony, 10 minutes from downtown, on the 5th floor.

("What do you wish someone had told you at the beginning of your mission?")
Just to remind you: this was the Firenze apartment that I liked best
I wish someone had told me that, besides family, hearing from somebody once a month is pretty reasonable. Yes, you've been set apart and are now "special," but everybody else also just hit the Turbo Button in their lives, and can't be expected to communicate with you at your convenience. That bothered me at the beginning of my mission, but I realized that everybody else is also a protagonist in their own story, and is just as busy as you.

Love, Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Exercise, Danny Boy and Coffins

Ciao, All!

TREE BASKETBALL. Well, we played basketball today with some other missionaries. I am terrible at basketball. I think I contributed like a tree. Just kind of got in the way.

But I was able to pull out the flying disc and get in some throws. So it wasn't a complete waste. But I saw some missionaries from other times of my mission -- Keller from the MTC, Thomas from Bologna/Torino, and others.

(Background: the missionaries hold the priesthood, which allows them to give people blessings. These could be to heal someone who is sick or ailing, or to comfort someone who is grieving or otherwise in need. They use consecrated (blessed) oil on the person's head, then say the prayer.) We gave a couple of blessings of health this week. It's always nice to help people out in that way, and just be guided to give words of comfort and healing 'as the Spirit directs.' And I still have Poppa Dave's vial for the oil. No salad dressing, just extra virgin olive oil. A couple of times when we didn't have oil on us, we just used some olive oil from the cupboard, blessing it, and then the individual. Since everyone has oil here.

MUSIC I LIKE. I have a couple of favorite songs I've heard here, I've decided. First, is my "dying song," "Into the West" by RotK. Seeing as, returning home, I will be going "into the west." I also really like various renditions of "Danny Boy." Also Paul Cardall's Redeemer for piano. And Nearer My God to Thee, I believe it's the Vocal Point rendition. Also Jesu Joy of Man's Salvation. That's nice, too. Just peaceful stuff. Also a bunch of Christian Rock, but that's just filler. You can't live for two years on just Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Piano Guys.

UNEXPECTED. We made an appointment with a guy we hadn't met before, and he said, come to this address. So we get there and it's a dirt road, so we park at the end of the road and start walking back.
He comes down the dirt road and waves, and he's wearing an apron made of discarded soil bags. He leads us to a garage/warehouse building that is very poorly lit.
Our eyes adjust and we see all these shovels, and some hoes, and some coffins, and we're like, "This guy is crazy and he is going to kill us."
But then he says, I work in a cemetery, as a horticulturist.
So he's only kind of crazy. I am safe, and happy, and healthy and all that.

(Background: During the Mother's Day skype, I told David that I, Mom, would not be counting down to his return, until there were 10 days left. That will be next Wednesday! David comes home on June 3!!)

Well, the next time I write, even Mom will be counting down...!

Love you!
Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Each Life that Touches Ours for Good


Yes, the Mother's Day skype was enjoyable for me, too.

LEARNING FROM OTHERS. It's just sort of weird because now all these "last missionary things" are creeping up. I gave my 'dying testimony' yesterday. That's when every missionary who is leaving that transfer, bears their testimony of their missionary work, during the zone training. So I bore my testimony of the work I've done over the past 2 felt overrated, because you can't condense two whole years into a couple of minutes. And if you could, it still wouldn't have the same impact because I was the one learning. But I talked about the influences we have on others, and the influence they have on us.
Our ward (congregation) had a Mother's Day dinner!
We helped set up, and ate some while we were there.

FEELING GRATEFUL. And during two years, you meet a lot of people. There is a hymn that Sanchez showed to me, called "Each Life that Touches Ours for Good." That describes my feelings about the friends I've made. I thank God for those people who have had a positive influence on me and became my friends.

BETTER THAN THE PHONE. We skyped from the house of the Nicotra family: a nice Italian family. One of their sons just returned from a mission to South Africa. And, they skyped their son who is serving a mission in England just before we got there. Now, twice I've seen other families skyping their missionary children from here, on Christmas Day and Mother's Day. I haven't know what skyping someone from the other side was like, but I see these families' joy at communicating with someone they haven't seen in awhile.
Our GPS doesn't know what it's doing...

My greenie Liu told me that Andersen, my trainer, is about to marry Liu's ex-girlfriend. Small world. He's been home about a year now. That seems crazy, it was so long ago, but here we are.

Have a great week!
Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Small Towns and Used Cars


TALK SOON. So I'll start off with the news you want to hear: I can Skype around 7 p.m. my time on Mother's Day, so just in time for y'all to swap in and out talking to me as you make grilled cheese sandwiches in the back :D I'm looking forward to the call...and then to maybe 4 weeks later...

NEW AREA. Anyway, other big news to keep you awake at night: as Dad noted, Merate is a small town. The ward is spread out over 15-20 towns in the area, which just happen to be centered at Merate. So to help us cover the area, this area has a car! And I'm the designated driver!

The first few days of being here, we were without a car, and waiting some for Elder Richardson's recovery. He was concussed from a car accident, getting T-Boned 6 weeks ago. The car was finished. And Richardson was pretty fried too, from staying inside for 6 weeks. (My 1 week I had to stay in the house from pneumonia way back when, was bad enough.)

But now we have a nice, secondhand silver Corsa by Opal. Fortunately, it is automatic. We took a train to Milan to pick it up and watch a Driving Safety video. I hadn't driven in 22 months, and it was nerve wracking to get behind the wheel again. But I did, and I have survived a couple of days of freeway and country driving. City and bad weather, not yet. But it's all coming back pretty well.

NEW MISSIONARY COMP. So, my companion Elder Richardson is a "nerd" -- Dungeons and Dragons, Magic, Star Wars, LotR, Chess, video games, fantasy. Everything I had heard from Anderson, who also served with him. He also wants to join the military. And right now, he's still on some restriction from the doctor due to the concussion, but I'm here to figure out where the work was headed before the accident, and iron out the schedule to get Richardson used to doing full-time service again. He was only supposed to be out of the house for 3 hours a day, for the past 6 weeks. Understandably, he has really bad Cabin Fever. So apply some of my specialty: organization and calls. And apparently driving. Yay, I'm useful!

Also, we went to Milano for P-day today. I've never been there for a full day, outside of conferences, so it was quite the experience! We saw the duomo, the Scala, a castle and gardens, various shops (a puzzle and a comics store), and ate at a solid Italian restaurant. One of the best pizzas I've eaten.
real Italian pizza

Have a great week!
Anziano Whitesell